Shifting Paradigms

Shifting Paradigms

Hailing from Ahmedabad, it was Nikita Mhaisalkar’s dream to bring the rich heritage of fabric and traditional Indian attire, to the city of Nagpur. Without any formal training in design, and with a degree in entrepreneurship management, Nikita always knew she was born to play with creativity. Fortunately, through her hard work and perseverance, her eponymous label today has a strong commercial perspective and presence. Edited excerpts...

Creating Luxe Prêt pieces that remain an owner’s pride forever—is the definition of your brand. What would you say is your forte?

The Nikita Mhaisalkar label has three divisions: an Indian line, an occasion wear section, and a luxury prêt segment. Our strengths are tailoring and surface texturing, as our embroideries are high-impact but light in weight.

Your free spirit is reflected in your work too, and your label gives an edgy international feel to the designs without missing the Indian spirit. What are your goals for your brand? How do you see yourself progressing?

The aesthetic is modern, with a focus on practicality and movement, even for our most elaborate outfits.

Your creations are synonymous with the bohemian touch in fashion designing. Take us through the inspiration board that helps you create such regal finesse.

Handmade at every stage, with each garment standing  out uniquely, owing to the fact that the kaarigars hand craft each piece.

Where in your life journey did you pick up this  bohemian, easy-breezy aspect to your personality,  and your designs?

The label has created its own design vocabulary in fashion over the years. We have focused on constant commitment and sheer hard work, towards developing something so luxe that it always remains a prized possession for the consumers.

Handicraft plays a major role in defining your design language. How is your label contributing towards the handicraft industry of the country?

Indian handicrafts are unique expressions of art, and represent the culture, tradition and heritage of our country. Our studio is always up for its contemporary revival. We make sure we adapt and adopt certain textile clusters that are popular across India, and re-imagine it for our global consumer. I think the true way to revive our crafts is to re-define them for more modern and urbane consumption.

Does the Indian fashion market give you space to experiment? Is there a stereotypical way that the world looks at Indian designers?

The Indian fashion market is multi-sensory and so diverse that every designer—established, emerging, and even new labels have enough space to explore, innovate and thrive. Globally speaking, we as Indian designers are misinterpreted as creators of over the top, dramatic silhouettes or gaudy handloom driven textiles. It’s difficult for them to accept the fact that we can also master western styles, forms and structures as impeccably as they can, often times with much better precision and sense of style.

Is there a difference between the Indian market and the rest of the world when it comes to the acceptance of sustainability?

Sustainability is the need of the hour, and it’s high time that we stop treating it as an alternative. As a label, we have always been sustainable with our design language. Our cultural ethos trains us to be eco-conscious, and use upcycling and recycling as a way of life.

What are your views on the concept of revival in fashion? Are there any particular fabrics or techniques of times gone by that your label still uses?

We at our studio always focus on using age old human skills, such as the traditional aari embroidery to create awe-inspiring textiles out of unique textures. We don’t treat embellishments as motifs and aim towards creating our own signature textiles with a redefined application.

According to you, what is the relationship between art and fashion? Does it play a pivotal role of influence in terms of aesthetic and creation?

Art for me is what pleases the heart, and commerce is what fuels our vision. There has to be a perfect synergy between finance and creativity. Without capital we can’t explore our artistry to its fullest. Having said that, innovation and imagination knows no bounds, and might not always be capital driven. For me, I choose designing because I love the thrill of creating a new idea, give birth to new concepts, and see it grow and empower so many people.

Is modernising traditional Indian silhouettes the new mantra in design?

Modernising any traditional form makes the craft and art more relatable as well as relevant to the consumer. We have to inculcate new ways of creating something in context of what’s in style now. As designers we are blessed with the creative vision to balance this pendulum of tradition and modernity.

Tell us something about your upcoming collection.

I would be exploring the Persian heritage and culture to design something out of the ordinary.

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.